There are a lot of questions that Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, could answer. How many roads must a man walk down? Why do fools fall in love? Who let the dogs out? But he’s not answering just any questions. He’s answering your questions–the ones you posted in our Figment forum.
As the author of the just-released Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler is a question-answering champ. Scroll to see if your question made the cut!
Billie: When you were younger, were you the type of person who was quiet and read a lot, or more social and out-going?
I was both, and I still am. I like to go to a large, laughing party and then leave early and curl up reading Rachel Ingalls.
M.C.: What’s the greatest or most memorable piece of advice on writing that you have ever received?
“Read everything out loud.”
K The Honey Badger: Lemony Snicket is an iconic name. How did you come up with it?
“Iconic?” That’s a strange accusation from somebody named “K The Honey Badger.”
Catcher in the Red Rum: Does writing under a pen name change the way you write? As in, do you use a different writing style/technique when Daniel Handler then you do when writing under Lemony Snicket?
I try to tailor my technique to the story I’m telling. Mr. Snicket tells a different kind of story.
Emma [TheChatterbox]: If you had to be trapped in a lift for a day, who would you MOST like to be trapped with (fictional characters are allowed)?
Maybe Jack the Ripper. He couldn’t murder me, as he’d be the only suspect when the doors were opened, so we would likely have a fascinating conversation just from the opening gambit: “What do you do?”
Emily Siebrecht: What was in the sugar bowl?
It’s not what was in it; it’s what wasn’t.
Anna Libertas: Do you plan out each book/series before you start or do you come up with it as you write?
With A Series Of Unfortunate Events, I liked to leave myself room to improvise. With this new series, I’m more thoughtful about where the first shoe drops.
Your book ” The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming” disturbed my mother but intrigued me at 11 years old. Same goes for ” A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Did you intend for your children’s books to scare away parents?
I’m glad to finally get this off my chest: all of my books have been written specifically to disturb your mother.
As a fellow long time accordion enthusiast, what is your favorite song to play?
I’m trying to learn “Especially Me,” but until then, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” or “When Doves Cry” are both good.
Why do you write?
The days are long and the nights are dark.
Elizaveta: Is Why We Broke Up centered after an event(s) that happened in your life? What advice do you give us about writing relationship stories?
I’ve been dumped many times, but the material in Why We Broke Up is largely stolen from other people’s stories. It is easier to write about other people, because you are more likely to know what is interesting about their stories. If you want to write a book about a relationship that goes sour, I recommend being in one that isn’t, such as the relationship between me and my wife which is weeks away from the 20-year mark.
Melissa Bouganim: What is your process in creating/forming characters? How do you create their voices, specifically?
Unlike many writers, I think that strong characters are made by a strong story, not vice versa. (Stop by a certain café sometime, and you can find me and some other writers having a very passionate, very dull argument about it.) I think of a story first, and then I begin to think more about the people in it. In the case of Why We Broke Up, I thought about what kind of young woman might keep many souvenirs from a relationship and then return them with a long letter. I thought about what she would notice about her circumstances, and what she would think and ream about. Gradually Min Green came into clearer and clearer focus.